CLEVELAND – Republicans have done this for a while now.
Award us control of the House and then we’ll repeal ObamaCare.
Elect Mitt Romney this fall and then we’ll undo all of President Obama’s ills.
Give us control of the Senate and then we’ll really repeal ObamaCare.
We promise. We really, really really mean it this time, too. Cross our hearts and hope to die.
Cleveland is clearly Donald Trump’s convention.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s tricked-out 757 jet and Sikorksy S-76 helicopter zoomed in and out of Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport, “TRUMP” emblazoned on the sides. People flocked to windows and ran into the streets to catch a glimpse. They pointed to the heavens like residents of Metropolis spotting Superman flying above.
Perhaps it’s only appropriate that Cleveland is the city where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster co-created Superman.
And while most conventioneers focus on Trump’s stagecraft, artful political jockeying played out Wednesday on the very stage designed for Trump’s coronation tonight.
Political upstarts usually engineer their insurrections in the shadows. They conduct clandestine meetings as they plot their rally to power.
Not for the GOP convention in Cleveland.
If Donald Trump loses this fall, one can point to July 20, 2016, as the start date for the 2020 GOP presidential sweepstakes. For the record, that’s the day before Trump formally accepted the nomination for this year.
Wednesday night’s Republican convention session featured possible 2020 GOP wannabees all on stage or on video at some point: Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. Vanquished Trump rivals Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Even Pence wrangled House Speaker Paul Ryan into the act, inviting his old congressional pal to introduce him to the throng.
This is the feedback loop in which Republicans have operated over the past few years. They promise a big political outcome later. They struggle to legislate and make policy in the here and now. There are promises of big action after the next election.
Granted, Republicans face substantial political and operational impediments on Capitol Hill on big issues, be it torpedoing the Affordable Care Act or reforming the tax code. But it’s almost impossible to score the optimum voting mixture on Capitol Hill to champion major legislative initiatives.
Still, it’s one thing to project legislative priorities into the future. But it seems as though at least some Republicans are already looking forward in hopes of 2020. Trying or not, they were all in the public eye at the convention Wednesday night.
In his address Tuesday, Paul Ryan posited that come the next State of the Union speech “you’ll find me right there on rostrum with Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump.” Ryan used his speaking slot to pitch his “Better Way” agenda for Congress. He spoke of tax reform and ripping out the health care law.
“You know what? None of this will happen under Hillary Clinton. Only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way,” said Ryan.
But if Trump fails, some voters would like to see Ryan run in 2020.
Walker deviated from the usual approach of convention speakers. First, the lectern disappeared into the stage. Walker then grabbed a microphone and jogged onto the dais like Wink Martindale hosting a TV game show.
Walker talked about how “more people are employed in Wisconsin than ever before. Our budget is balanced and responsible.” He added that “if conservative reforms can work in a blue state like mine they can work anywhere in the country.”
And if Donald Trump fails, Walker might hope the public will hand him the mic in four years.
And then there was Ted Cruz.
“Vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution,” thundered Cruz, yelling to be heard over hostile hecklers. The throng practically booed Cruz off the stage and chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Still, Cruz presides over a core of loyalists who would might vote their conscience in November.
And if they do …
During his video message, Rubio told the crowd that “the time for fighting is over. It’s time to fight for a new direction in November.”
And if that strategy doesn’t work out …
Ironically, Pence said that the public is “tired of hearing politicians in both parties tell us ‘we’ll get to it tomorrow.’”
Conservatives hoped Pence would run in 2012. They pined for him to run this time. And since conservatives didn’t secure a conservative at the top of the ticket in 2016, would 2020 beckon for Pence?
It may be Donald Trump’s convention. But if things go south for Trump, Wednesday night may emerge as the first primary of the 2020 campaign.
During Cruz’s speech, video monitors all over the arena flickered spastically. This included permanent message boards and video screens installed directly behind the stage and hanging from the rafters. Digitized pixels spasmed, their lumens more appropriate for a discothèque than a political convention.
Speculation flooded through the arena that hackers orchestrated the mischief. Yet no Guy Fawkes mask materialized on any of the screens.
No hackers. But the appearances of these politicians made some conventioneers wonder if they were already skipping 2016 and hacking directly into 2020.
Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.